The Novichok class of nerve agents are noxious chemical-weaponized organophosphates. Though its use is prohibited under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, the attempted murder of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter has turned a spotlight on one of the world’s deadliest poisons.
Novichok was developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and is reportedly ten times more lethal than VX, the nerve agent used to assassinate the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Novichok produces its toxic effect by irreversibly inhibiting acetylcholinesterase. Unlike other nerve agents, it is thought to target both the central and peripheral nervous systems. Exposure to Novichok invariably leads to death.
Take Home Messages:
With an increase in worldwide chemical weapons usage, including recent use in the United Kingdom, clinicians should know how to rapidly recognize symptoms of nerve agent poisoning, lend their expertise in the education and treatment of such attacks and administer life-saving antidotes.